While President Rodrigo Duterte claims there is no plan so far for the government to entertain a casino project in Boracay, photos from Malacañang showed he met with the officials of a Macau-based company who plans to build such a casino resort on the island.
On Monday, the President said there is no plan so far for the government to entertain a casino project on Boracay island.
"Wala akong plano diyan [na] casino-casino. Tama na 'yan kasi sobra na. Casino dito, casino doon. Give it to the people who need it most," he said in a press conference in Davao City before heading out to China.
"'Yung mga casino, who owns the casino? Hotels? Big ones? Who owns them? 'Yung mga mayaman, pati mga dayo. Eh agricultural man ['yung lupa], eh 'di ibalik ko sa farmers," he added.
However, a photo released by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) shows Duterte shaking hands with Galaxy Entertainment chairman Lui Che Woo in Malacañang on December 6, 2017.
Another photo also showed the President sitting with officials of Galaxy Entertainment and officials from the Department of Tourism and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).
A caption provided by the PCOO said Duterte is discussing "matters with the officials of the Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited led by its Chairman Dr. Lui Che Woo as the group paid a courtesy call on the President in Malacañang on December 6, 2017."
A report by Reuters also said that officials of Galaxy Entertainment and its local partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) paid Duterte a courtesy call to discuss the plan.
A news release by the PCOO also said officials of the Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group paid a courtesy call on President Duterte. It said that the "company is in the process of complying with government requirements to start operating in the country."
Apart from Lui, officials who paid a courtesy call on the President were Galaxy Entertainment deputy chairman Francis Lui Yiu Tung, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank director Rolando Macasaet, Galaxy Entertainment officials led by president Michael Victor Mecca, senior director for Strategic Planning Roland To Chi Kay, senior director for International Premium and Mass Market Development Raymond Yap Yin Min, and senior manager Andrew Nicolas Lui.
They were joined by Representative Alfredo Abelardo Benitez of the third district of Negros Occidental, according to the PCOO news release. Benitez is the founder and majority owner of LRWC.
Asked if the Galaxy informed the President during the courtesy call last year of its planned casino resort in Boracay, Benitez answered in the affirmative.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia and PAGCOR chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo were also present, the PCOO news release said.
Last month, the PAGCOR granted Galaxy and LRWC a provisional license for Boracay Philippines Resort and Leisure Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Galaxy Entertainment.
Galaxy Entertainment and LRWC intend to build a $500-million integrated resort-casino complex in a 23-hectare property in Barangay Manoc-Manoc, Boracay island. —KG, GMA News